What Is PWA and How Can It Grow Your Business

Why Progressive Web Apps?

If you’re looking for an app that you can market quickly, comparatively cheaply,  without worrying about app stores, using just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, you’re in the right place.

The end goal of all app development is to achieve better performance and ultimately ensure a better user experience. Whether it is done through improving the speed at which apps load, the user interface design, or the accessibility, the final goal is always the same—making it more user-friendly.

A progressive web app (PWA) is not meant to be a native app killer. They are not meant to replace them, they’re simply another way of making sure your customer can readily reach you.

As competition grows, companies have to go out of their way to reach their client. The ultimate move is to use every possible way to facilitate the use of your product.

Progressive Web Apps offer native-like performance and design right in the browser. However, as great as they are, PWAs are certainly not a good fit for every project. 

As more companies decide on giving progressive web apps a try, we thought it’d be a good time to rediscover what is PWA and when you should build them. Ready?

The Idea Behind Progressive Web Apps

The main idea behind progressive web apps is to transfer the immersive user experience and functionalities, from native apps to web browsers.

If you could access your favorite apps like Twitter or Facebook without having to go through the burden of installing native apps, you’d be golden. PWAs shorten the distance that a customer has to beat to access his favorite platform.

PWA vs a Native Mobile App

Before diving deep into how PWAs compare to other technologies, let’s briefly discuss the key factors that determine a PWA and a native app.

Progressive Web Apps are written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and are designed to run within a browser. Because of this, they can be used by users across all platforms as long as they are used within that browser. However, because they are written for browsers and not for OS like iOS or Android, they lose a lot of features that native apps can offer. Native apps are often written for specific devices using Swift, Kotlin, or JavaScript. Because native apps are written for particular systems, which in turn are integrated with specific devices, they are far better optimized and, in many cases, are going to run more efficiently.

PWA vs Native Mobile Apps vs Cross-platform Apps

There are three leading ways of building apps. These are:

  1. Native Application Development
  2. Progressive Web Application Development
  3. Cross-platform Application Development

Native Apps

A native app is a piece of software developed to be used precisely on one type of device or platform. Since they are tailored to that given device or platform, they are more in sync with a given software and hardware. This means they can readily use a given platform or device’s built-in technology, like a flashlight, microphone, accelerometer, or the GPS on your mobile phone.

On your Mac or PC devices, a native app will be your Calendar, Mail, or Photos. In terms of mobile apps, a native app is any app you download from Apple’s App Store or the Android Play Store.

Native apps are built using Swift for iOS devices and Kotlin or Java for Android devices. They are pieces of software that you have to physically download and install onto your device before they can be used. And that is arguably their biggest downside.

Once downloaded, they offer top-tier performance and speed. They’re extremely secure unless you download them from shady 3rd party websites.

They offer a great user experience and, once installed, provide great access to the user via push notifications. Native apps are the gold standard in mobile app development.

Some of the downsides are that they’re not indexed or listed by search engines.They require the most resources and time to develop. They are also hard to update and maintain. You’re not going to be able to build and maintain them without a highly-skilled team of developers.

Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps are nothing new. The term was first coined by Google’s Alex Russel in 2015. PWAs are the next generation of mobile app development. Their key perk is that they weld the native app functionality with the web app accessibility, speed, and performance.

You do not need to download a progressive web app. That’s the main strength of PWAs.

PWAs use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and their goal is to deliver the experience of native apps to users of all platforms using web browsers.

Unlike native mobile apps, PWAs do not require additional distribution. Once published on the web, users can use PWAs and add them to their home screen to keep them at hand.

There is no need for digital distribution through systems like Google Play, Microsoft Store, or the Apple App Store.

A web application is one that can work offline and can be added to the home screen.

To achieve that, PWAs must include a manifest and a service worker.

Some of the biggest downsides of progressive web apps are that they are not really native mobile apps; they are close in functionality, but they do not offer the same user experience and don’t give you the same features that allow for reaching out to your users.

Comparatively, they have fewer native features and they do not support push notifications on iOS. That, however, is a quickly developing situation, and we can surely expect more native features in progressive web apps as they continue to be developed.

Cross-platform Apps

The idea of Cross-platform Apps is very simple: you write code once and you deploy it to all other platforms and devices. The best-known example is Facebook’s React Native. React Native is a web component framework that offers reusable cross-platform components. That means you can, theoretically, use the same tools to build your apps on the desktop, mobile, android, and iOS.

In reality, however, you’re always going to have to do some configuring to optimize apps for each platform. But that’s still way better than writing everything from scratch.

The majority of cross-platform apps are coded React Native which is a JavaScript framework. And that is the biggest downside of cross-platform apps. JavaScript is an interpreted language and it’s slower by nature.

There are very promising alternatives to React Native, like Flutter (which uses Dart instead of JSON), however, they’re still not as well-established and not the standard when it comes to cross-platform development in general.

Cross-platform app development is something you want to have if you have the means to spend a lot of time developing and maintaining your web component framework or have a solid plan for scaling your product. It can be incredibly performant and easy to scale and maintain, however, it will require a good amount of your developers’ time.

  • Easy to build
  • Most cost-efficient
  • Works on any device
  • Doesn’t require installation
  • Automatic updates
  • Outstanding Performance
  • Great user experience
  • Uses full potential of platforms
  • Fast time to market
  • Works on any device & platform
  • Easy to scale, update and maintain
  • Not a ‘real’ mobile app
  • Doesn’t support all native features
  • No push notifications on iOS
  • Most expensive
  • Time-consuming development
  • Hard to update & maintain
  • Requires various skills
  • May require native skills
  • Not always native-like

Who Is Using Pwa Anyway? Progressive Web App Use Case

Twitter, Facebook, Uber, and Alibaba all understand one thing – PWAs offer incredible possibilities for marketing and business.

One incredible success story is that of Twitter. Let’s take a look at how a progressive web app managed to boost one of the world’s most visited websites.

‘Twitter Lite PWA Significantly Increases Engagement and Reduces Data Usage’

  • 65% increase in pages per session
  • 75% increase in Tweets sent
  • 20% decrease in bounce rate

Twitter Lite is now the fastest, least expensive, and most reliable way to use Twitter. The web app rivals the performance of our native apps but requires less than 3% of the device storage space compared to Twitter for Android.’ – Nicolas Gallagher, the Engineering Lead for Twitter Lite

Progressive Web Apps have already become the industry standard. The ability to achieve native functionality without installing physical apps is truly remarkable. Megacorps like Twitter, Spotify, and Facebook have known this for a while, and every year, more and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon.

Read on and see how PWAs can boost your company to the next level.

Want to grow your business with the PWA?

What Are the Main Advantages of Using PWA?

PWAs offer numerous technical, marketing, and business benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how exactly PWAs can help you grow your business. Let’s explore all the features available through PWA.

Technical Advantages of Using PWAs

PWA Works In the Browser—No Need To Download

A progressive web app is always in your browser. You never need to download any software to make it work. And that’s its main perk. In a nutshell, a PWA works like a native app and can be accessed right from your Google Chrome, Opera, or Microsoft Edge browsers.

PWA Works on Any Device

Since PWAs are always in your browser, you can easily access them at any time. This is one thing that greatly differentiates PWAs from all other web technologies. Forget about installing your favorite app on each of your devices – just go to their web app and you’re set.

PWA Offers Native-like UI & UX

There’s no argument that native apps are the way to go when it comes to user experiences and user interface. However, in the case of PWAs, you’re still getting a design like that of a native app. Granted, it’s not exactly the same, as you’re inevitably going to miss out on some native benefits, but it’s really close. And that’s great considering it’s all in your browser!

PWA Is Lightweight & Responsive

A PWA is always in the browser, accessible to all users at all times. This means it’s going to be highly responsive and fast as a standard. Users don’t have to worry about app stores or google play stores. Instead, they can easily access an app-like website right from their website browser’s home screen.

They are also much faster than regular websites thanks to the Client-Side Rendering (CSR).

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Marketing & Business Advantages of Using PWAs

PWA Offers Offline Functionality

A PWA can be called ‘progressive’ only if it works offline. To achieve offline functionality, PWAs require a virtual proxy that connects the browser and the network. That proxy is called a service worker.

In more technical terms, service workers run separately from the main JS code of the site. They also can not enter the DOM structure itself which means that API is ‘non-blocking’.

Don’t lose conversion offline.

With a progressive web app, your customers have access to your products even without a stable connection. They can continue to browse and add products to their carts without any issues.

A PWA gives your users more than just an app-like technology right from the browser. It allows your users to access the app right from the home screen even when offline. It’s one of the greatest benefits of PWA technology.

Your company can now reach more users whose network connection is lacking. After the first time, they will have visited your site they will be able to use it again any time they wish.

PWA Is SEO-friendly

Unlike native apps, PWAs are indexed and placed in search engines. Also, they work like websites and the rendering speed of your website is one of the key determiners of how it’s going to be ranked by a search engine. Search engines, like Google, pay close attention to the Core Web Vitals, rating your website accordingly to SEO standards.

PWA offers a completely alternative way of rendering. Client-side rendering (CSR) renders content using JavaScript right in the client’s browser.

That way, PWA does not need to send a full HTML file from the server. It only sends a lightweight JavaScript file needed to render the site.

Since a PWA can respond to network requests quicker, it’s going to rank higher on Google and other search engines. When it comes to SEO, PWA is a true winner.

Client-side pros:

  • Interactive
  • Web-app friendly
  • Works with the majority of JS frameworks
  • Faster rendering after the initial load.

Client-side cons:

  • Longer initial load
  • Lower SEO due to the longer initial load
  • Usually based on an external library.

Server-side pros:

  • Faster initial page load
  • More SEO-friendly
  • Better for static sites

Server-side cons:

  1. Frequent server requests make it run slower.
  2. Comparatively slower page rendering.
  3. Needs to re-load full pages

PWA Is Highly Accessible & Great for Conversion

Not only is PWA incredibly fast, SEO-friendly, and easy to find on search engines, but it’s also the most easily accessible app by nature.

A PWA is always there, right in the browser, waiting for potential clients. Just like a website. However, one of the strongest points of PWA technology is its ability to convert even when offline. Your users no longer need a network connection to enter your site and, for example, search for products in your online stores.

You, on the other hand, don’t have to lose hair over your losing engagement and money due to your site being offline.

PWA Is Reengaging

Engagement is one of the most important metrics in web technologies. PWA reaches out to your users just like a native app. Your users can add it to their home screen and receive push notifications (excluding iOS) just like in the case of native apps. One crucial difference is that they do not have to go to an app store or android play and install anything at all.

PWA Is Future-proof

The internet is all about accessibility. Top companies like Twitter or Meta (Facebook) all know this and actively continue to develop their PWA models.

When it comes to accessibility, PWA is king. Offline functionality, improved load speed, SEO, search engine rank, and no need to download a physical app from the App Store or Android Play Store are all truly remarkable advantages that other technologies have not been able to offer.

PWA Is Cheaper Development Process

Native apps are undoubtedly the gold standard of app development. However, they’re also incredibly complex and hard to develop. Without a doubt, the cost of developing a progressive web app is lower than that of native apps.

Native apps have to be developed separately for different platforms. That means they require learning different coding languages like Swift for iOS apps and Kotlin or Java (possibly both) for android.

On the other hand, PWAs work right within a browser and do not require anything but HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.

PWA Is Easy Maintenance

To release a fully secure version of your native app you’re going to have to code using different programming languages for each platform and often for separate devices. PWAs are developed for web browsers, so once you’ve got your app developed for Google Chrome, it’s going to run the same across all Google Chrome browsers.

Since you don’t have to go through the process of programming your app separately for different technologies and platforms, you can release a full and secure version quicker. Far fewer resources are needed when working with just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as well as fewer developers.

Potential Drawbacks of PWA

Not Exactly a Native App

You might not have to search for a native app in different app stores or install it on your desktop or mobile device and that’s all great. However, because of that, your app is also not visible on the most popular app platforms in the world. I’m sure you don’t want to miss any chance to promote your services. But there are a few more disadvantages to PWAs.

PWAs are simply incapable of supporting some of the native features, such as geofencing, smart lock, or, in the case of iOS, push notifications. Since native apps are more intertwined with you the hardware of your device, they’re also able to perform faster, without the browser’s latency.

Struggles With the More Demanding Features

PWAs support a lot of native functions, but they’re not as efficient at running them. Native apps are far more integrated with the system as well as the device’s hardware, making them much more energy-efficient than PWAs, which run everything through an additional barrier – the browser.

Because of that the native functions may not run as smoothly and are very likely to consume more of your device’s battery than in the case of native apps.

All in all, PWAs support a lot of native functions and that’s awesome. However, there are also many functions they do not support, and even when they do, they are not as well-optimized as those of native apps.

Summary – Is PWA the Right Choice for Your Business?

There are a couple of scenarios to consider. If you’re a new company that is just looking to get your MVP right to the market, then PWA is, in most cases, a good choice. PWAs work across different platforms and are generally cheaper and easier to develop and maintain. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking to build a ‘real’ app that works on multiple platforms and devices, then a cross-platform approach will be your best. 

And finally, if you are looking to build a mobile game or super interactive app with a lot of demanding features, go for a native app. Just mind that if you are planning to reach a wide audience, native development will demand building two different apps using two different languages for both iOS and Android.

Another scenario in which your company could benefit from a PWA is when it’s highly prosperous and looking to expand. PWA is simply another tool in your arsenal of resources. It’s comparatively inexpensive to develop and is proven to bring great results. It’s one of the best ways to make your services more accessible to all users.

Ultimately, PWAs, native, and cross-platform apps all have their unique use cases. However, these vary greatly. In the end, each scenario is highly individual and has to be considered as such. If in doubt, feel free to book a free consultation with our developers and see what’s best for your case.

Whatever your case is, you’re always welcome to contact our experts. Don’t worry, we don’t bite!

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